Dixon, IL – A heroic school resource officer took down an active shooter inside Dixon High School on Wednesday morning, after the former student opened fire while 150 school seniors rehearsed for their graduation ceremony.
Matt Milby, 19, entered the school foyer with a rifle at approximately 8 a.m., Sauk Valley Media reported.
Brianna Johnson told the news outlet that she noticed Milby as he peeked through a window. He then entered the gym, and opened fire, she said.
"All of a sudden, we saw someone come in the new gym lobby doors, and we heard this pop! Pop! Pop!," another student, Kylie Shaw, told Sauk Valley Media. "We just thought it was firecrackers, then we saw pieces of the ceiling coming down."
School Resource Officer Mark Dallas confronted Milby, who then took off on foot from the school.
Officer Dallas chased after him, while Milby fired several rounds in his direction.
The officer returned fire, striking Milby in his upper shoulder, Sauk Valley Media reported.
Milby, who had been expelled from Dixon High School, was taken to a local hospital for treatment for the non-life threatening gunshot wound.
Authorities said that the Dixon students had participated in active shooter drills in the past, and that they reacted exactly as they had been trained to do in such a situation, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Police noted that many students and faculty were found barricaded inside their classrooms, having blocked the doorways with desks and chairs.
Others fled from the school, and gathered near a local drugstore, Shaw told Sauk Valley Media.
"A lot of things went right today and many things could have gone wrong," Dixon Mayor Liandro Arellano Jr. said during a press conference, according to The Sacramento Bee.
Dixon Police Chief Steven Howell credited Officer Dallas for his quick response, and said things may have turned out much differently if the officer hadn’t been present.
“I could not be more proud of the police officer and the way he responded to the situation,” Chief Howell said, according to TIME. “With shots ringing out through the hallways of the school, he charged towards the suspect and confronted him, head on.”
“Because of his heroic actions, countless lives were saved,” the chief said. “We are forever indebted to him for his service and his bravery.”
City Manager Danny Langloss, whose daughter was among the students in the gym, said that the community was “lucky” to have Officer Dallas at the school.
“His brave actions save a lot of lives,” Langloss told Sauk Valley Media.
No one else was injured in the attack, and police said they believed the shooter acted alone.
Brandon Stehl, who was present in the gym at the time of the shooting, said he used to be friends with the gunman, who he described as “hot-headed and reckless.”
"I've never known him to be an evil person,” Stehl told WMAQ. “He was never bullied, and never bullied others.”
"He seemed like a really nice kid, but then everything changed and he was angry and high all the time," Johnson told Sauk Valley Media.
According to WGN, a woman who identified herself as the gunman’s mother had a different view of Milby’s high school experience, however.
"My son has been very, very sad for a long time,” she said, adding that he was bullied, assaulted, and ostracized when he attended the school. “There’s been a lot of hurtful things done to my kid.”
The woman said her son was still enrolled at Dixon High School, but that he was working on an independent academic program through the principal’s office.
He was among those scheduled to participate in the graduation ceremony, she said.
She said she did not keep firearms in her home, and did not know how Milby obtained the weapon.